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Lessons From a Year Outside

Even the darkest clouds can have silver linings. In the year since St. Anthony’s moved its services outside to comply with pandemic safety measures, we’ve learned a lot about what our guests need and how to best serve them. While prompted by necessity, some elements of our outdoor service have been so successful that we plan to retain them in a post-pandemic world.

Before COVID-19, our Free Clothing Program took pride in creating a shopping experience where guests could choose what they liked. When the pandemic forced us to close our store, we pivoted to a curbside program, where guests tell staff what they need and receive a kit containing those items. Manager David Watterson says that service will continue even after our store re-opens.

“For the people who are really lacking stability, this service is valuable. They don’t have to engage too deeply, they don’t have to sign up, they can wait in line and get a change of clothes.”

David Watterson

Our Resource Center was another service that had to relocate. From their new perch in front of St. Boniface, case managers were able to reach guests who might not have sought their services inside. That’s why Manager Thanita Adams has decided to permanently station one case manager on the street, where they’ll be able to assist guests with simple questions and paperwork — no appointment necessary.

“Sometimes I myself have problems making appointments — scheduling them, coming in,” says Adams. “That’s why community outreach and engagement is so important.”

Meanwhile, our dining room will continue to provide a to-go option. Before the pandemic, to-go meals were only available upon request for guests who had work, school, or medical issues; now, anyone will be able to take one anytime. Darren McGee, senior dining room community manager, says he wants to give guests “as much choice as possible.”

Providing choice is one way we respect the dignity of our guests at St. Anthony’s. We believe in meeting people where they are, and helping them get to where they want to be, wherever that is. As we make our way out of this pandemic, we’re looking forward to serving our guests better than ever — inside and out.

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